While the power of the almighty twist can make or break a film for many viewers, one thing we’ve all learned over the years is that an entire movie should never hinge on its reveal, let alone be built around it. It’s not that it necessarily ruins the whole flick, it’s just that walking out of the theatre with disenchantment doesn’t exactly leave you with the best of dispositions, and it really doesn’t give you a reason for repeat viewings. Films like Psycho have endured because the entire film is compelling and endlessly entertaining, whether it’s because of Hitch’s style or the incredible performances by Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. Other films like Four Boxes are perhaps best left as a short, with one possibly good idea floating among a lot of trite concepts.
Truth be told, there really isn’t a lot to Four Boxes, which tells the story of Trevor (Justin Kirk) and Rob (Sam Rosen), two friends who run an estate liquidation service – which basically means that they go into recently deceased people’s home, rummage through their belongings, and sell them for profit. Arriving at a new “client’s” house, Trevor takes charge of the operation while Rob runs around acting hood and using obnoxious slang with his coffee-house hipster fiancé, Amber (Terryn Westbrook). Rob finds a website called Fourboxes.tv, a live webcam feed featuring a hooded character named Havoc who lives in a cage, carries around a leaf blower, and builds bombs in his basement. As the video feed becomes stranger and stranger, the love triangle between Amber, Rob, and her ex-boyfriend Trevor becomes more and more likely to reduce their friendships to a smoldering pile of ash.
Most of the film focuses on Trevor, who spends most of his days in the house preoccupied with the low-res video feed, trying to figure out exactly what it is he’s looking at. Being very grainy and off-color, you’ll spend most of the flick trying to make sense of what’s on the computer screen, which in turn makes most of the characters’ observations about what’s going on kind of a stretch. On top of that, Havoc spends most of the time walking around ominously and playing with his leaf blower, which isn’t exactly interesting.
The rest of the film deals with Amber’s ever-changing direction of affection, causing all the character to become petty and even more unlikable then they were in the first place. If it wasn’t their misplaced emotions and bad ethics that makes them unsympathetic and downright childish, their Juno-esque dialogue certainly doesn’t help. I’m not really sure who would say “We’re gonna push plastic strollers full of babies around Disneyland, a’ight?!?” in real life, but going for realism apparently isn’t on the agenda for Four Boxes. The tedious nature of these two topics drags the film out to no end, making the 84 minute runtime feel like an eternity. Watching someone watch bad TV and bicker about their relationships is a little too mundane for a feature film without a good gimmick that runs throughout.
The actors certainly make the best of the material they’re working with, giving decent performances under the circumstances. The horrendous nature of their lines is explained in the third act, but by that point, you kind of hate all of them and don’t really care. But since that’s the point, I guess it’s commendable… but still not in a way that makes me like the film.
Four Boxes has a good idea or two, maybe even one that could be considered fairly original. But with its slow as molasses pace and multitude of uneven, boring topics, it is neither memorable nor entertaining. With a better script, its hook could have made for a great film, but as it stands, it’s the most unthrilling thriller I’ve seen this year.